Despite what yoda might have to say, knowing about Stages of Change Theory can help get you there.
The Stages of Change
Precontemplation: Not intending to change. Uninterested, uninformed, unprepared to contemplate change, or all of the above, thank you kindly. Maybe change feels overwhelming or unnecessary. People who dwell here can be in denial. And people who are in denial sometimes react with hostility to suggestions that they change. Feeling hostile? It’s a clue.
Contemplation: Intending to change, but not immanently. Maybe procrastinating, maybe researching options.
Preparation: Intending to act. Plan in place. Getting ready.
Action: Just like in the movies. Taking action on change and intending to stick with those actions. Or scientifically speaking, “has attained a criterion that is sufficient for change”.
Maintenance: Sustained behaviour change strategies.
Termination: Change is complete. There is no chance of returning to old behaviours. Termination does not mean that you terminate the AIP & go back to donuts. It means that you will never eat donuts again and you don’t want to.
There are all kinds of ways to start an Autoimmune Protocol. If you are in Contemplation, you can use your time there effectively by doing research and deciding how you are going to start.
Terry Wahls and Sarah Ballantyne both recommend in their recent books that you decide whether you are going start gradually or go big. Just like getting into cold water or removing a particularly gnarly band-aid, you need to pick one.
Dr Wahls has designed the Wahls protocol in three stages so that people can start slow by just eliminating gluten and dairy and upping their veg; or be extreme by jumping right into her stage 3 Wahls Paleo Plus, a low-carb, high fat ketogenic version of the Wahl’s protocol. The only thing she is firm on: “Begin”.
The advantage of a phased-in approach is that you can always advance to the next level if you don’t get the results you are seeking. The advantage of starting with a more extreme version is that you will likely achieve healing faster, which will reinforce your change efforts. And you may be able to put some restricted foods back in over time.
Last fall I wrote a post about getting started with paleo that is applicable to the AIP. It includes instructions for doing a force field analysis, which will enable you to bring all your jedi powers to bear on your process of change.
Dr Ballantyne refers to recent research on habit change which suggests that changing a habit takes from 18 to 254 days, and 66 days on average.
I’d say, the bigger the change, the longer it takes.
Matthew and I had an interesting difference of opinion about this the other week, when he’d been on the AIP for 3 months and was really struggling with the restrictions.
He said: It’s different for you because you never crave anything.
To which I retorted: I don’t crave anything because I’ve been doing this for 2 years. Back when I was still mourning for my SAD-foods, you were still eating them!
The point being that psychological dependence on foods takes time to lift, but eventually it does. Somewhere between Matthew’s 3 months and my 2 years, Termination happens.
Obviously it helps if you are seeing positive results from your change. The beneficial effects of change often assist people to move from Action to Maintenance and then to Termination.
One aspect of change that is not officially included in the stages of change is Relapse. Relapse happens. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it happened at our house a few weeks ago.
The important thing is about a relapse is not the relapse.
It’s what you do next. Go back to Precontemplation? Or Action? It might be helpful to decide ahead of time what your Relapse strategy will be. Plan not to need your relapse plan, but make one anyway.